Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Friday, January 6, 2012
There’s been a great big push back—make that a shove back—over Michael Hait’s couple of blog posts on blogging and source citations. I can’t speak for Michael, but I didn’t read them nearly as harshly as others have. What I got from his posts was basically, ‘If you believe in the standards, show that on your blog.’
What I got from his posts is that he’s worried. He’s concerned that the hard work and time put in by prominent genealogists over the last fifty years to standardize and elevate genealogical research will be swallowed up in the tidal wave of the newest genealogical publishing avenue—blogs. Personally, I think he’s right to be worried. I share his concern.
I greatly enjoy starting my mornings with a diet coke (I take my caffeine cold) and my RSS reader on my iPad. I love to read geneablogs. I follow several—professionals, amateurs, and many in-between. Some are source-cited, most aren’t, and I enjoy them all. BUT I am also an avid reader of the NGSQ; I attend any lecture I can that is given by an FASG, CG, or AG; and I read and participate on the Transitional Genealogists Listserv. In other words I’m getting a good dose of peer reviewed and crowd sourced information in addition to blogs. I have also been doing this long enough to know how much weight I can place on any one person’s opinion, blog post, article, or lecture.
But there are plenty of people who aren’t. There are plenty of people who are just starting, and the first thing they see isn’t a peer reviewed journal, it’s probably a blog. So I choose, on my blog, to work to promote standards. I choose, on my blog, to try and build on the foundations which have already been painstakingly laid. Do I think everyone else should? Well yeah, of course I do, or I probably wouldn’t think I should do it. But I also think that my four-year-old daughter should wear matching clothes to preschool. Her response? “You’re not the boss of me!” And you know what? She’s right (at least in a choosing my battles sort of way). I’m also not the boss of any other blogger. Nor would I ever want to be. It’s our differences that make us interesting.
I just hope that we don’t forget the work of those who have gone before us (and are still going before us). I hope that we appreciate and respect the foundations they have laid. I hope we continue to strive to learn all we can from them. I hope that we continue to build on these foundations and continue to legitimize our passion in the eyes of the academic world. Because it does matter and it will affect how our profession grows. So if we do support standards including, but not limited to source citation standards, we can help newbies learn them by practicing on our blogs.
So . . . the takeaways from this post? No one is the boss of what you write on your blog, but our blog is often our public face and it’s a great place to teach newbies about standards—citation standards, research standards, and ethical standards. (Of course if you don’t agree with the current commonly held standards that is totally your own business.)
The genealogy blogosphere has been hopping with discussions about citing sources, exclusivity, and gatekeepers. It has me somewhat baffled. There have been some implications (and outright statements) that the American Society of Genealogists' distinction of “Fellow” creates a privileged class full of gatekeepers who just want to keep the rest of us down.
Really? From their website:
“Election to the American Society of Genealogists is based on a candidate’s published genealogical scholarship. Emphasis is upon compiled genealogies and published works that demonstrate an ability to use primary source material; to evaluate and analyze data; to properly document evidence; and to reach sound, logical conclusions presented in a clear and proper manner.” 
I must have missed the part where they were endowed with super keeping out powers. Instead what I see is a recognition of those who have worked tirelessly to provide us with accessible examples of genealogical scholarship. I see those who have exposed fraudulent genealogies, such as those of Gustav Anjou. I see those who have taught us how to not inadvertently create fraudulent genealogies ourselves. I see those who have given their time and effort, sometimes at great personal expense, to the pursuit of legitimized genealogical scholarship.These are the folks that have brought us past name collectors, past royal connection hunters, and past being ridiculed as the red headed stepchild of the historical community (or at least firmly on that path). These Fellows have brought genealogy to the point where the historical community is starting to take notice. Elizabeth Shown Mills in particular has been instrumental in this shift. See, for example, the added insight her work has shed on black slave owners in Louisiana here  and here . This is genealogy affecting the way we understand history. Do you think anyone would have listened fifty years ago?
So I find myself baffled by the backlash. Do we expect, after writing and researching for only a few years that we deserve this same level of respect? Should we not expect to earn recognition as one of the genealogy community’s best researchers and teachers only over the course of a lifetime? A new generation of genealogists is coming up in the ranks (frankly there is always a new generation on their way up) and they—we—must expect to pay our dues in the traditional manner. Everything can’t always be me, me, me, and now, now, now.
This gives rise to the question of whether these awards and distinctions are worthwhile. I submit that they are, in fact, invaluable. At some point in our genealogy growth curve we all discover how much we don’t know. It’s my observation that we do this again and again. We grow, we plateau, and then something shows us—again—just how much we still have to learn. These somethings, these spurs to our growth, come from FASG’s, they come from scholarly journals, they come from Institutes (taught by CGs, AGs, and FASGs). We would stop growing without their examples of peer reviewed scholarship. The peer review process of scholarly journals, and the peer elected process of ASG’s Fellow distinction, gives us, as growing genealogists, a body of work we can trust and build upon.
 American Society of Genealogists, Current Fellows of the American Society of Genealogists (http://www.fasg.org/ActiveFellows.html : accessed 6 January 2012), specifically the first paragraph.
 Gordon L. Remington FASG, "Gustave We Hardly Knew Ye," Genealogical Journal, 19 (1991).
 Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Isle of Canes and Issues of Conscience: Master-Slave Sexual Dynamics and Slaveholding by Free People of Color, ” Between Two Worlds: A Special Issue of The Southern Quarterly: A Journal of the Arts in the South 43 (Winter 2006): 158–75, specifically beginning on page 162; digital image at Elizabeth Shown Mills, Historic Pathways (http://www.HistoricPathways.com : accessed 6 January 2012).
 Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Social and Family Patterns on the Colonial Louisiana Frontier,” Sociological Spectrum 2 (1982): 233–48; digital image at Elizabeth Shown Mills, Historic Pathways (http://www.HistoricPathways.com : accessed 6 January 2012).
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Witcher’s presentation, “High Touch and High Tech: Being a Successful 21st Century Genealogical Society” sparked a fire storm of blog posts, comments, and tweets. See what I’m talking about at GeneaMusings and Luxegen. (Note that some of the comments and tweets referred to Witcher's related keynote speech "The Changing Face of Genealogy." Now for the most part I agree with what I’ve seen in terms of summaries and comments:
- Societies do need to embrace technology to remain viable.
- Societies do need to reach out to a younger generation.
- Websites, e-publications, webinars, and surname databases are all great ways to both embrace technology and reach a younger generation.
We’re beginning to run our societies like businesses. We’re using words like ROI, profit margin, and customer. There is some value in that. There is value in ensuring we are offering sufficient member benefits. There is value in ensuring our societies don’t go bankrupt. There is, however, very little value in constructing a barrier between society boards and society members by classifying members as customers.
Societies don’t have customers—they are built on a member model. They were created by people who came together with a common goal expressed by their mission statement. Let’s look at the state mission statements of a few prominent societies:
National Genealogical Society (NGS)
“To serve and grow the genealogical community by providing education and training, fostering increased quality and standards, and promoting access to and preservation of genealogical records.”Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS)
“OGS is a non-profit organization, incorporated under Internal Revenue Code 501©(3) whose purposes are:Utah Genealogical Association (UGA)
- Fostering an interest in all of the peoples who contributed in any way to the establishment and perpetuation of the state of Ohio;
- Searching for the reasons and forces behind the migration of early settlers into this state;
- Preserving and safeguarding manuscripts, books, and memorabilia relating to the early settlers of Ohio;
- Securing and holding copyrights, master copies and plates of books, periodicals, tracts, and pamphlets of genealogical and historical interest to the people of Ohio;
- Publishing, printing, buying, selling, and circulating literature regarding the purposes, records, acquisitions, and discoveries of the Society.
- Aiding others in the publication and dissemination of materials pertaining to Ohio, including biography and family and local history;
- Receiving and holding gifts and bequests from any source for the benefit of the Society, disposing of such gifts and bequests not needed and using funds derived therefrom solely for the purposes of the Society;
- Doing all things incidental to the perpetuation of the purposes of the Society, and exercising the powers legally and properly requisite thereto.
“UGA provides genealogical information, sources, and education through personal instruction and published media on state, national, and international family history topics, while promoting high standards and ethical practices.”What do these and many other genealogical society mission statements have in common? They all use words like promote, educate, preserve, and foster. These societies were built as service organizations. Do we still think of them that way? Are genealogy societies still a place where we come together to give back to our community? Or are we spending too much of our time complaining about what societies aren’t doing; about what they aren’t providing for us as consumers? I respectfully submit that it’s not a society’s job to meet our needs as consumers. It is their job to meet their mission statement—and in the process to provide a place for us to give back to the community in a meaningful way.
Disclosure: I serve on the board of the Utah Genealogical Association as an unpaid director. I also serve as the unpaid director of the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. These opinions are my own and don't reflect the board as a whole. In fact I'm not even sure the majority of UGA directors and members would agree with me!
Monday, December 26, 2011
I've been looking particularly closely at a few trends in the discussion which have pushed my buttons and I'd like to address each one in a separate blog post (3&4 will be addressed together):
- The 'what have you done for me lately?' attitude toward genealogy societies.
- The American Genealogical Society, its Fellows, and why we need them. (Implications of exclusivity and gatekeepers vs. true expertise and peer review.)
- Standards, push-back, and why I care. (Including citation standards)
- Do bloggers have a responsibility to adhere to these standards?
Friday, November 4, 2011
This week I have been devouring Barbara Matthews' posts over at The Demanding Genealogist. Barbara's no-nonsense, take no prisoners look at professional genealogy is spot on. Thanks for taking this difficult topic head on, Barbara!
The non-genealogical blog I love is OTD Passion. It's brand new and ostensibly about Operational Training and Development. It's really much more about understanding your passion and making it work for you. The astute genealogists out there will soon realize that this blog is written by my husband, Eric. I swear I'm not biased. I just finally talked him into sharing his insights with more than just me.
Check them out; I think you'll enjoy them!
Thursday, November 3, 2011
". . . the value of an institute such as SLIG, NIGR, or IGHR is the chance to spend five full days thinking about genealogy without the distractions of my regularly daily life at home. The 'content' of the courses is, of course, valuable, but for me it is the week of thinking about the bits and pieces of the course content that give me ideas for my own research that is really valuable." ~Jay Fonkert, CGGenealogy institutes provide an immersive training experience. Educators have long known the best way to learn a language, a concept, or a skill is to be completely immersed in the learning process. Institutes allow students to focus their energy 100% on the learning process and to leave the many distractions of everyday life at home.
Traditional research into human learning holds that there are three learning styles or modalities/means of learning: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. New research in human learning hypothesizes three slightly different modalities of learning: Heart (feeling), Mind (thinking), and Body (experiencing). Genealogy institutes provide students with all three modalities under both hypotheses, and thus are the most comprehensive avenue for genealogical education. The experience of having all necessary modalities met is magnified by the immersive nature of an institute.
Auditory/Visual/Kinesthetic Learning Modalities
"Institutes offer hands-on learning opportunities unavailable elsewhere. At my last institute class I marked graves in a cemetery with a handheld GPS device, used land-platting software, and analyzed original prints of historic maps." ~Cafi CohenMost literature on these three learning modalities states that roughly 65% of adults are visual learners, roughly 30% of adults are auditory learners, and roughly 5% of adults are kinesthetic learners. However, the literature goes on to state that rigorously categorizing learners is not a useful exercise--in fact most of us lear best through a combination of two or more learning styles. How do genealogy institutes address all three learning modalities?
- Auditory--the most traditional method of learning for adults, it is also the most commonly used teaching method. Auditory learners need to hear the information. Genealogy institutes all strive to use the best lecturers in the business. These individuals are engaging speakers and know how to engage their audience through humor, stories, question and answer sessions, and interesting lectures.
- Visual--the second most common learning style, this is slightly less common in general genealogy conferences. A talented teacher, such as those who teach at genealogy institutes, know how to use visual aids such as power point, syllabus materials, and advanced reading assignments to enhance the learning experience. Within the genealogy institute lectures are enhanced and points emphasized through the use of power point; slides are never used as a prompt for the speaker. Many institute courses provide students with advanced reading material as well as periods of classroom time dedicated to reading materials followed by discussion. This, paired with engaging lectures, meets the needs of roughly 95% of all learners--needs which may or may not be met through other genealogy educational medium.
- Kinesthetic--what sets most genealogy institutes apart from other quality educational experiences are the hands-on activities provided for students. These often include field trips, computer labs, homework assignments, and in-class workshops. It is these activities, more than any other, which set a genealogy institute apart.
Heart/Mind/Body Learning Modalities
"I find them at the same time inspirational and grounding." ~Lisa McKinneyWhile the literature on these alternate learning modalities is newer and less proven, it nonetheless provides useful insight into the learning process, and into why genealogy institutes are held in such high regard by those who have attended them.
- Heart--the heart modality is said to be engaged when the learning process evokes an emotional response. These emotional responses may be excitement, sentiment, pride, anticipation, or a host of others. We see this modality being met at genealogy institutes when instructors teach with humor or intensity, when they engage students emotionally in the outcome of a case study, or when they provide an activity that evinces pride in the student.
- Mind--the most obvious modality to be met at a genealogy institute, the theory holds that in order to process the information completely, a student's mind must be engaged and challenged. This, more than any other, is the trademark of the genealogy institute. The sheer density of the material challenges the student to remain mindful and intellectually engaged. Even during off-times the immersive nature of an institute means that lunches, breaks, and evenings are filled with spirited discussion among fellow students and instructors.
- Body--similar to the kinesthetic learning modality, genealogy institutes engage the physical side of learning through field trips, group work, and exercises requiring students to write and/or draw (i.e. platting a deed) during class.